SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Maybe you were down on the Yellow Jackets after they lost their third consecutive game and fourth in five. If so, Geoff Collins didn’t want to hear it. Georgia Tech’s coach said then that only the haters couldn’t see the program’s progress. The Jackets were losing, but the margins were better.
That was two losses and one embarrassing effort ago. Days after Collins’ defiant declaration after losing to Miami on Nov. 6, his favored Jackets lost at home to Boston College. Then Tech went to South Bend on Saturday and confirmed that, contrary to the coach’s protestations, his program is going backward.
The Jackets lost 55-0 at Notre Dame. It’s the largest losing margin for Tech in a shutout since at least the 2000 season. The Jackets (3-8) have lost five games in a row since beating Duke, which has lost seven consecutive. Tech’s 2-6 ACC record is worse than all league teams except Duke (0-7).
The Jackets were 18-point underdogs against No. 8 Notre Dame. A victory would have been a major upset. It seems fair to expect them to play one quarter of competitive football when it mattered. The Jackets couldn’t even do that.
Garbage time began in the first quarter and lasted until the game finally ended.
Said Collins: “That’s a really good football team, but I thought we got out-coached, we got ‘out-executed’ and we got ‘out-physicalled’ throughout the game.”
The Jackets should be past that kind of performance by now. The triple-option is long gone. This was Game 11 of Year 3 for Collins at Tech. It looked a lot like the 52-7 loss to Georgia in Year 1 and the 73-7 defeat against Clemson in Year 2. It’s doubtful that next weekend’s home game against No. 1 Georgia will look much better for the Jackets.
After his team’s no-show, Collins again declined a chance to make the case directly to Tech’s supporters that he’s the right guy to lead the program.
“The locker room is the first and foremost thing I’m concerned about,” Collins said. “There are some hurting guys in there. ... That’s all I’m concerned about right now. We’ll just keep it there.”
It’s Collins’ prerogative to keep it there. But I don’t understand the reluctance to tell his customers that he understands their frustration and let them know that the wins are coming. Some of the Tech people whose support Collins needs don’t like to feel as if their concerns aren’t valid. This game was the latest evidence that they are right to wonder what’s going on with the Jackets.
This time, Collins couldn’t tout a competitive effort. It was over by halftime. He couldn’t say the Jackets were still learning how to win close games. This time they didn’t even compete.
Said Collins: “The (lack of) response to adversity, that was disappointing today. We have not shown that since Game 5 of the season (a 52-21 loss to Pittsburgh). It showed up today, and when you have that against one of the top teams in college football, they can put a score like that on you.”
The most damning indictment of Collins’ work is Tech’s decline on defense. The Jackets’ defense was conventional when he arrived, even if it wasn’t the priority. It was supposed to be better with Collins, a former defensive coordinator. Instead, Tech’s bad pass defense somehow keeps getting worse.
At halftime, the Fighting Irish had 285 yards passing on only 15 attempts. That’s more passing yards than Notre Dame had compiled in eight of its previous 10 games. Jack Coan’s touchdown passes went for 52 and 20 yards. The few times that Tech defenders were in position to defend passes they couldn’t do it.
“We’ve got to learn to focus and make plays,” Tech safety Juanyeh Thomas said.
Notre Dame led 24-0 after one quarter and 45-0 at halftime. Tech’s best scoring chance of the first half ended with a feeble field-goal attempt as the clock ran out. Tech’s next opportunity for points resulted in quarterback Jordan Yates fumbling after taking a big hit for a sack. Notre Dame’s Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa scooped up the ball and ran 70 yards for the final score.
That touchdown made it Notre Dame Defense 14, Georgia Tech 0. The Irish scored on an interception return in the first half. They scored pretty much whenever they wanted. Notre Dame’s first seven offensive possessions went for five TDs, two field goals and one punt. Tech’s first 10 drives ended with seven punts, the missed field-goal try and the two defensive touchdowns.
Notre Dame 55, Georgia Tech 0
Quarterback Jeff Sims was among the Tech players listed out with injuries. Yates started in his place and spent much of the day running away from pass rushers. Sims couldn’t have done much to change this outcome. His injuries and others couldn’t explain Tech’s no-show effort.
Tech’s moments of incompetence included back-to-back penalties for a false start and delay of game. Those flags in the second quarter turned a third-and-short into way too many yards for this Tech offense to convert. The Jackets ended up punting. Four plays later, Michael Mayer ran free through Tech’s secondary for a 52-yard TD catch.
That score extended Notre Dame’s advantage to 24-0 before the end of the first quarter. Tech responded with a three-and-out. Notre Dame scored another TD. Tech went three-and-out again. Notre Dame scored again. On and on it went.
The Jackets trailed 10-0 after less than five minutes. It could have been worse. The Irish gained a first-and-goal after one play, Coan’s 38-yard pass to Kevin Austin. Tech produced two sacks to limit the damage to a field goal.
The Jackets narrowly avoided crisis on their first offensive play. Irish linebacker JD Bertrand hit Yates’ arm as he passed. The ball fell to the turf. Field officials ruled an incomplete pass, and replay officials agreed. But Tech’s luck good ran out four plays later.
Isiah Foskey wrapped around Yates soon after he took the snap. Yates tried to throw the ball to running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Linebacker Jack Kiser caught the pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. Tech trailed 17-0 and never recovered.
“We’ve all got to be better,” Yates said. “It’s really plain and simple, we’ve just got to be better.”
Kyren Williams ran for a score to to give Notre Dame the 45-0 lead. Williams flipped the ball to the official as Notre Dame fans clapped along to a muted rendition of the fight song. The Irish didn’t need to rub it in. Everyone could see that the Jackets were overmatched.
If they didn’t see it, then they just didn’t want to see it.